Black-eyed peas go by a variety of other names: chickpeas, cherry beans, China peas, Indian peas or frijoles. Technically, they are legumes and they boast high levels of fiber, protein, vitamin A and folic acid. They can be used to make salad, bean cakes, curry dishes, fritters, casseroles and in Southern dishes with ham and rice. Since black-eyed peas are not bland but taste like springtime green peas, they work well with vibrant, strong seasonings. They also work well with minimal seasonings that allow the natural flavor of black-eyed peas to dominate. Any spice can be used but there are some that enhance the robust flavor of black-eyed peas more than others.
Black-eyed peas are commonly used in the making of vegetarian curry dishes and in Southern dishes. These dishes are characteristically spicy and a number of spices are responsible for that effect. Curry dishes with black-eyed peas often include cumin, coriander, curry powder and turmeric. Southern dishes like Hoppin’ John, a traditional Southern New Year’s dish for good luck, usually include cayenne, chili flakes and pepper. These spices add flavor and a hit to the dish.
Herbs are considered fresh spices and there are some herbs that go well with black-eyed peas. The most common herbs used with black-eyed peas include parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage and savory. They can be used fresh — often, they’re chopped fine and tossed with salad. They also add flavor to black-eyed peas in stew, soups and casseroles. Ginger is often added to fritter and bean cakes to give zing. Fresh herbs have the added advantage of offering nutritional value to the dish with its high antioxidant content while infusing the peas with rich flavors.
Garlic and Onion
Garlic and onion — this common kitchen duo is commonly used to add flavor to black-eyed peas. Garlic is either chopped or minced to release the pungent flavor. Chopped onion is used to release sweetness, especially if it is sautéed first. Together, they combine to add flavor and enhance the overall dish. This pair of spices is especially useful when you just want to highlight the flavor of black-eyed peas without empowering them. Raw minced or chopped garlic and onion can also be added to black-eyed peas salad to enhance flavor and to add punch.
Whether you’re making fritters with black-eyed peas or making a meatless bean dish, the spices are chosen to complement the flavor of black-eyed peas. Certain spices are synonymous with certain cuisines. For instance, Mediterranean cuisines with black-eyed peas will have Mediterranean seasonings such as fennel, oregano and basil. Warm and sweet spices such as cinnamon and cloves add flavor as well as aroma. Bay leaves are also used, especially in soups and stews to add fragrance.
References and ResourcesMayo Clinic: Beans and Legumes: Types and Cooking Tips
Mississippi Market; 3 Days, 3 Ways: Black-eyed Peas; January 2011
Food and Spice: Black-eyed Peas With Spices and Herbs